LONG WEEKEND (1978)

PrintE-mail Written by J. R. Southall

Long Weekend was a fairly anonymous Australian entry in the horror film cycle of the late 1970s, something of a failure on its domestic release but, similarly to Don’t Look Now and The Wicker Man and thanks to an unusual premise, one that has since become something of a cult celebre. Approximately midway between Peter Weir’s 1974 debut The Cars That Ate Paris and subsequent Picnic at Hanging Rock in tone and theme, Colin Eggleston’s best remembered feature asks what might happen if nature looked at its treatment at the hands of man and decided to fight back. It’s the kind of film that once caught on a television outing would haunt the memories of anyone who saw it.

Peter and Marcia are a fairly typically self-obsessed couple whose marriage is falling apart, and who take a weekend’s break at a deserted stretch of the northern coast in an attempt to repair it. Ignorant, arrogant and impatient, both Peter and Marcia begin the trip with a complete disregard for the countryside around them, the journey to the beach including the accidental killing of a kangaroo in a manner that will prove a forewarning of later events. Once they arrive – rather later than intended thanks to nature already beginning to reject their presence – they behave with total insensitivity towards their surroundings, Peter eager to use his new gun, the reluctant camper Marcia killing just as freely with insecticides.

Long Weekend is far from perfect, its message delivered with a blunt hammer to the head, and much of the foreshadowing about what is to come being overwhelmingly obvious. But Eggleston’s film – the first from writer Everett de Roche, who would subsequently deliver other cult favourites Harlequin, Roadgames and Razorback – is surprisingly effective in its conveyance of a sense of unease, with several clichéd horror ideas played lightly or unconventionally enough to feel fresh and disturbing in their depiction.

Things don’t end well, of course, and if the film has a problem it’s that with no other characters to speak of, the viewer is forced into either attempting to identify with a couple of pretty hideous people, or else taking nature’s side (obviously the intention), a path which can leave a feeling of emotional distance from the drama. There’s a sense, ironically, that it goes against nature to wish ill upon the only human characters, and yet that’s what de Roche’s script is asking us to do, mostly very successfully.

With a raft of good extras and as decent a widescreen transfer as might be expected, this Blu-ray edition is as definitive a release as Long Weekend has ever had, and should make those who grew up troubled by its topics very happy.

Extras: Trailer, interviews, commentary, discussion panel

LONG WEEKEND / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: COLIN EGGLESTON / SCREENPLAY: EVERETT DE ROCHE / STARRING: JOHN HARGREAVES, BRIONY BEHETS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW


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